How and when can life get back to normal? This is a question being asked with increasing frustration as normality returns to Europe and the US. Hong Kong can only get back to normal when we have adequate immunity within the population. This can only be achieved by allowing the disease to burn through, or getting people vaccinated. There is currently a reluctance towards vaccination and there has been a debate about how this can best be resolved. Do we make vaccinations compulsory? This is controversial but it has already been introduced for some occupational groups in different parts of the world, customs officials in New Zealand, healthcare workers in Italy. The Hong Kong government has stated a preference for encouragement. In our latest Podcast, Dr Owens and Professor Cowling also argued against mandatory vaccination. Making a case for ‘carrots rather than sticks’. But which nudges are the most effective?
We recently surveyed 3,633 OT&P patients about attitudes to vaccination. More than 95% of respondents rated the booking and vaccination process as excellent, there are minimal barriers to vaccination. We asked our patients who had chosen not to be vaccinated what would persuade them to do so. The most effective nudges in this population consistently relate to relaxation of quarantine restrictions for vaccinated individuals.
Fig 1. A graph that illustrates our survey's vaccine-hesitant respondents' view on the factors that would encourage vaccination.
At least in this population loosening of gathering restrictions is the least effective intervention with financial reward being only marginally more effective. This study shows similar results to the Hong Kong University Survey. Both suggest that positive messaging and active benefits to vaccinated individuals, specifically around quarantine, is likely to be the most effective nudge with which to increase vaccination rates in Hong Kong. We must begin to treat vaccinated individuals as if they are immune. Elimination is impossible as a long-term goal. It only functions as a short-term strategy until adequate immunity can be achieved by vaccination.